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Like Nothing You've Ever Seen
bobtoombs2 February 2005
I'm another of those who saw this at Sundance, and all the things I enjoy about Gaiman and McKean's graphic novels were on display: the quiet humor, the intelligence, the delightful weirdness, the astounding visual vocabulary. Except that in this case, the words are spoken by good actors, and all those visuals get up off their feet and move.

It's hard to describe the impact of watching a McKean painting move and talk. There might be those who quibble about the movie looking too animated, but of course that's exactly the point: to create a world and make it dance. The end result, visually at least, is like nothing you've ever seen before, and absolutely worth seeing for that reason alone.

Some of the people I talked to after the screening also loved the visuals but felt the story was a bit dull, that they had seen it all before. Well, it's true that the story does wear its influences on its sleeve--a little "Alice in Wonderland" here, a little "Time Bandits" there, a lot of "Wizard of Oz" over here, not to mention a resemblance to Gaiman's own "Coraline." But I'm just as familiar with those stories as anyone else, and the resemblances never interrupted my enjoyment of "MirrorrMask"--after all, it's what you do with a story that determines its success. And from moment to moment, there was enough innovation and cleverness, enough delight and wonder, to make the movie a positive delight.

I can imagine kids sitting in the audience with their eyes agog; and I can imagine their parents sitting next to them, just as agog for a whole different set of reasons. "MirrorMask" may or may not be too wild to be a full-out commercial success; but I predict it's going to have a long, long shelf life. I know I'll be buying the DVD as soon as it's available, so that I can show it to people and say "Wait till you see this."
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Primal and True Fantasy
Polaris_DiB14 February 2006
The medium of film is--like the medium of writing or other celebrated media--practically limitless in potential for fantastic creations. However, the fantasy (NOT SCI FI) genre is severely underrepresented in it. For every Lord of the Rings, we have ten attempts at The Matrix.

But what better alchemical mix to straight-up fantasy can we have than Neil Gaiman, Dave McKean, and the Henson Company? One thing Henson could do with his puppets that many others never really aspired to do was create fantasy the likes that weren't really done again, and his legacy lives on, using the enriching and creative mind of Gaiman, the celebrated British fantasy writer and comic book artist whose vivid imagination was so perfectly translated into film using practically every chemical for fantasy possible: CGI, animation, painting, set design, split-screen, superimposition, saturated colors, I even think there were moments of stop-motion animation.

The story is about a fifteen-year-old girl named Helena who works for a circus. Her creative and artistic mind keeps her busy from day to day until her mother falls ill and has to go to the hospital. Blaming it on herself for a row she had with her mother, Helena "escapes" into dreamland... or does she? I think what's really refreshing about this film is that, despite what a lot of people say about it, it's NOT that much like Alice and Wonderland. I can't help but think that, despite the fact that this film uses a lot of tropes common to the fantasy genre, it's distinct and original, something to be admired and appreciated. I don't think anything in this film really came off as that clichéd, even though it did come across as familiar. It might even be possible to say that anybody who has a real problem with it is just taking it too seriously, but that argument always goes in the wrong direction so forget about it.

One of the things I think that's important about a film like this is that it's not really a kids movie. Children could watch it, easily, and be fine with it, but it's not directed just to them. It isn't really directed at a target audience in the genre sense. It is simply fantasy for fantasy's sake, going where a lot of filmmakers seem desperate to avoid because "It's just not real enough." That's why, despite the fact that this movie has pretty obvious CGI, it doesn't matter as much as the obvious CGI in The Hulk: it's so fantastic, it helps that it doesn't seem real.

Too bad it just won't get the marketing or the attention it deserves, probably ever. That's why if it's ever considered a classic at all, it'll be a cult classic. Such seems the destination of many things that dare to be what they want and not what others want them to be.

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I thought it was unwatchable.... is there something wrong with me?
Sam8 June 2006
Warning: Spoilers
So many people loved this movie, yet there are a few of us IMDb reviewers who found Mirrormask excruciatingly uncomfortable to watch and arse-clenchingly boring. I fall into the latter of these two camps, and I will try to explain what it was that made my toenails curl so unpleasantly.

Firstly, to set the record straight - I like Neil Gaiman's books. I sometimes find his knowing, sarcastic, 'wry asides' humour a little geeky, and I actually prefer his work when he is playing it straight and leaving the jokes alone - but, even with his occasional lapses into crap 'dad' gags, I find his creativity and imagination to be something a bit special.

Interestingly, one of Gaiman's strongest works is Coraline, a Gothic fairy story for kids that is very low on jokes and high on tension and creepiness. His latest novel (Anansi Boys) overdoes the funnies, and tends to read at times like Terry Pratchett does the Sisters of Mercy (not the nuns but the band). Mirrormask inhabits similar territory to Coraline, and when I saw the stunning visuals in the trailer, I got a bit excited that somebody had managed to transfer Gaiman's spectacular vision and imagination to the screen.

In praise of the film, some sequences do look stunning. However, the visual effects are occasionally ruined by CGI animation that looks like a Media Studies student project. Backgrounds and scenery are often incredible, but some of the character animation looks clumsy, amateur and cheap. In an early dream sequence, the spider is animated beautifully, but the book-eating cat-beast looks poorly rendered and very 'computer generated'. Compared with the standard of animation found in productions such as 'The Corpse Bride', Mirrormask occasionally looks very amateur indeed. However, in Mirrormask's defence, the budget was tiny for such a grand vision, and a few creaks in the effects can be understood and forgiven.

What cannot be forgiven is the stilted, stagy, cringeworthy and pretentious dialogue. The actors struggle desperately with the dialogue - and there is so much of it that they are constantly hampered and stumbling over it. Conversation is rendered completely unnatural, the jokes fall flat time and time again, and the turgid speeches appear to be the writer's only method of plot exposition. Combined with the fact that the actors are working against a blue screen (which always adds an element of 'Phantom Menace') - this renders the film almost unwatchable. In such an unreal setting the actors need to work twice as hard to be believed, and in the main they fail terribly. The girl who plays the lead role puts in a valiant struggle against the impossible stage-school dialogue, and occasionally shows real promise, but it is never enough. The god-awful cod-'Oirish' of the Valentine character (with whom she is forced to spend an inordinate amount of screen time) puts paid to any chance of this young actress rising above the material. It appears to be Valentine's job to explain the plot to younger viewers, and to add a bit of light relief. Personally, I wouldn't want him anywhere near my 15 year old daughter.

What else is wrong with this film? Answer....Rob Brydon. What's annoying (for us Brits, anyway) is we know Rob Brydon can act! We've seen him hold the screen for half-an-hour on his own (doing those 'Marion & Geoff' monologues), and in the first 'real world' bit of the film he is fine. However, stick him in front of a blue screen and he loses all sense of character and turns into the worst am-dram-ham I've seen in years. A real shame.

What else is wrong? Answer... the wanky slap-bassing, sub-Courtney Pine saxing and unlistenable, too-high-in-the-mix soundtrack that never shuts up. God, the music is incessant, loud, distracting, irrelevant and, if that isn't enough, has wanky slap bass wanking all over it. It makes the dialogue very hard to hear, but that could be a blessing in disguise.

What else is wrong with it? Answer.... The whistling mime artist. In modern society there should be no place for mime, apart from certain secret places in France. Every moment the camera lingers on the gurning, whistling, moss-juggling, yogurt-weaving idiot, I understand why the Edinburgh locals get a bit anxious and fractious when Festival time comes round again.

My final criticism is that the film is pretty dull. Surrealism often is dull – it either requires its audience to slip into a dreamlike, Zen, accepting state, or for the audience be constantly wowed by bigger and grander surprises. A story with a bit of pace involving characters that we could believe in and care about would have gone a long way to giving this film the emotional centre that it sadly lacked, whilst stopping the eyelids from drooping.

Finally, apologies to all those who found depth, meaning and wonder in this film. You have managed to suspend your disbelief, you have seen past the creaky CGI, ignored the crappy dialogue and the abysmal performances that resulted, and understood the maker's grand, imaginative vision. I wanted to, but I couldn't see past the real-world failings that dragged it down.

I hope Neil Gaiman gets it right next time, if he gets (or even wants) the opportunity.
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Incredible visuals and great story
spacemonkey_fg22 February 2006
Title: Mirrormask (2005)

Director: Dave McKean

Cast: Stephanie Leonidas, Gina McKee, Rob Brydon, Jason Barry, Dora Bryan

Review: Dave McKean and Neil Gaiman have partnered up in the past to write some visually astounding children's books. McKean would take care of the artwork and Gaiman would take care of the story. This time around they have joined forces to create a film that very closely resembles their previous colaborations. Only this time around, the images move and actors say the words in this way helping to bring McKeans art and Gaimans words to vibrant life.

The story in Mirrormask is about a young girl called Helena. Her parents run a circus and she has been brought up in the circus environment, but lately shes been feeling like shes not really cut up for circus life. Helena and her mother have a fight about her not wanting to be in the circus anymore and she wishes her mother would die. On that same day, her mother falls ill and ends up in the hospital and Helenas conscience begins to bother her, after all, she did wish her mother was dead. And now she is close to dying. So once Helena falls as sleep thinking about all these things she enters her imaginary dreamworld where everything has a representation of what she knows from real life.

This is a very visual film. McKean fills the screen with his lush imagery. If you've seen McKeans artwork and know how beautiful it is, then you know how incredible it is to see his pictures come to life on this film. This movie is eye candy, and for those of you out there who love art and love films that give their utter most importance to their visual aspect, then you will love this movie. McKean fills the screen with really outlandish, strange, weird and dreamlike situations. Nothing is what you would expect.

Some people might feel that this type of movie is all style and art and no substance simply because its such a visual film. But I sincerely think that this is not the case with Mirrormask. With a writer like Neil Gaiman in charge, well, you can almost tell that the movie is going to have some deep psychological themes going on for it. And it does. Every character, every situation, every word spoken in Helenas dream world means something in Helenas real life. So be on the look out for those comparisons.

The movie has some truly astounding sequences that left me breathless and my jaw was dropping. First there was the giants orbiting sequence with these huge stone giants floating in the air and then there's this sequence in which Helena gets transformed into a dark princess that is simply amazing. They really did a good job of mixing music with visuals in that sequence. You'll just have to wait and see it to understand how beautiful it is.

This movie wears its influences on its sleaves and has no problems in showing that. There's many similarities between this movie and Labyrinth, Legend and most of all The Never Ending Story. Its the only thing I didn't love about this movie. It felt like they remade The Never Ending Story with elements from Labyrinth and Legend. Take all those movies, shake em together, add a little bit of psychological depth and incredible visuals and you've got Mirrormask. So if there's anything bad to say, its that in its narrative, its similar to a few other films. But on a visual level, its a whole other thing, so that sort of balances its self out.

I liked the fact that Helena wasn't a dumb little girl. She was very head strong and very smart. She wasn't a dumb little girl stumbling across a strange landscape. She was quick and witty and she realizes the situation in which she is in quickly and I liked that about her character which was very well played by Stephanie Leonides.

So in conclusion, this film will blow you away with both its visuals and its story. Its a mixed bag of other films you've seen before story wise, but on a visual level the film will be like nothing you've ever seen before.

Rating: 5 out of 5
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I thought it was better than Labrynth. I know you don't believe me.
Pairodox3 February 2005
This is my first review, so pardon me for any clumsiness in its composition. As such I am nervously avoiding any discussion of the plot, lest I spoil anything.

This is a continuation of the tradition of fantastical films about the adolescent transition of young women. Other films in this vein are "Alice in Wonderland", "Paperhouse",and "Labrynth." The film was produced by Henson Studios, and is presented like their other features, but rather than puppets and elaborate sets, animation replaces those elements.

Visually I found it stunning. I am familiar with McKean's work, and I found this to be amongst his best. It was distinctly McKean's style. The use of color was phenomenal, as well as surreal composition. I was enthralled seeing his creations in literal motion, rather than the usual implied motion. I personally thought there were a number of visual references to other great films, but I'll leave that to your opinion. I thought the direction clearly demonstrated his grasp of composition.

The writing was true to Gaiman's tradition of off-beat fairy tales. The pacing was dreamlike, flowing between slow moments of beauty and exposition to frenetic moments of fierce action. Humor, dark and otherwise, punctuated the film. The dialogue was very strong.

I was also very fond of the use of sound. One scene is a frightening and beautiful music video, that can be lifted out of the film completely and carry itself. It fits better in the film, but doesn't need to.

The film fits extremely well with all of the previous Henson Productions. I suggest having seen "Dark Crystal", "Labrynth", and "Jim Henson's The Storyteller" before viewing this. The piece fits very well with these.
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Eye Candy, Cake, Cookies and Pastries
baho-131 January 2005
This is a visually mesmerizing film that takes movie fantasy into new territory. Think Alice in Wonderland meets Wizard of Oz performed by Cirque de Soleil. MirrorMask takes a comic-book approach to Good vs. Evil, with 15-year-old Helena as the protagonist who must find the MirrorMask and save the Light Kingdom.

But the story isn't nearly as important as the fantastic creatures and hallucinatory imagery that parade non-stop through Helena's fantastic journey. Director and writer (and frequent collaborators) Dave McKean and Neil Gaiman leap into the movie business with extraordinary confidence and derring-do. They are both legendary successes and have a devoted fan base from comic books (the Sandman series, for one), novels, short stories, posters, CD art, and much more.

It quickly becomes clear that MirrorMask is the creation of talented and imaginative artists completely unfettered by the bounds of traditional film-making. As a result, it is a bold departure from anything you have ever seen on the screen before. The story is simple enough and the visuals so wondrous that most children should find the movie enjoyable (unless they've become action-oriented adrenaline addicts). Yet the writing is sufficiently deep to satisfy the most thoughtful of adults.

I spoke to both McKean and Gaiman at one of the Sundance screenings and found them both polite, thoughtful and interesting. I told them that MirrorMask was the kind of movie I wanted to see again immediately. It is lovely enough to warrant a second look. And there's enough meat on the bones to go back and catch what you might have missed. The last movie I felt that way about was Memento, one of my all-time favorites.
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Labyrinth for the 21st century
kerecsen29 January 2005
The audience that showed up for the Sundance premiere of this gem was quite diverse. Some came for Neil Gaiman, some for Dave McKean and the rest for the Jim Henson legacy. Based on my informal polls conducted in waiting list lines around Salt Lake City, everyone got what they wanted.

The visuals -- as you would expect from a move involving Henson's company -- are simply stunning. Most of the movie is blue-screen, which is quite unbelievable for a movie made for a mere $4 million. The human actors blend into the gorgeous painting-like backgrounds (google McKean's art and you will understand that this is quite a feat), and do an outstanding job of interacting with the digital characters.

Only 17 people -- all freshly graduated students -- worked on the animation, but the result looks like 170 professionals did. It should be noted however that Dave McKean spent 18 months in post-production, pretty much 24/7.

The weakest part of the movie is the story. Dave and Neil came up with the outline over 3 days, and worked out the details as they filmed. The end result is a run-of-the-mill Alice in Wonderland rip-off, with some elements from Labyrinth and other familiar children's tales.

I have to give extra credit to Stephanie Leonidas, who does a great job bringing Helena, a girl who ends up lost in the world of her Dali-meets-Picasso-meets-McKean drawings, to life.

I hope this movie will get picked up for theater distribution, because it deserves to be seen on the big-screen. In any case, McKean fans will be happy to hear that a Mirrormask picture book is in the works that will contain the 1700 drawings produced for the movie...

If you get a chance, go see this movie. It should be fun for children of all ages. If it comes to theaters, I will go see it again, and will give it an A again :)
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Destined to be be one of the most overlooked films of all time
A_Different_Drummer22 November 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Wow. Talk about your one-of-a-kind films that come out of nowhere, make an indelible impression on the viewer, and then disappear back where they came from....? Dave McKean, a Brit producing in Canada, had a vision of a story which, some fans have opined, was as good as or better than the Wizard of Oz. Whereas both stories are about young ladies who have a mystical experience that may or may not be true (depending on the interpretation of the viewer) the unknowns in Mirrormask (Stephanie Leonidas?) deliver and deliver and deliver. Not only great characters, but the special effects are not to be sniffed at either. I revere this film so much that I don't want to give much away, lest I spoil your pleasure, but the notion of a young girl with a sick family member who, under stress, ends up in a place she does not understand -- nicely riffed with the idea of parallel dimensions and characters who look like the people here BUT ARE NOT! -- is nothing short of brilliant. If there was a higher score than 10, I would give it to this film. And the ending in particular is noteworthy because these sorts of films (consider Oz, and the goofy conclusion there) almost never deliver an ending that works. Here the ending not only works, but, if you have been following the subtle nuances of the film, it may even bring a tear to your eye. Brilliant. And lost to an unappreciative public.
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MirrorMask is the quintessential Alice in Wonderland story.
HavardAndersen12 February 2006
Dave McKean and Neil Gaiman's MirrorMask is the quintessential Alice in Wonderland story. The world that these two immensely gifted artists and storytellers have created is the very definition of mind-blowing, offering up one of the most astonishing and original fantasy realms since Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet's The City of Lost Children over a decade ago. The amazing dreamscapes of Helena is truly Dave McKean's art brought to life, and is just through and through a perfect fit for Neil Gaiman's highly imaginative and at times quirky style of writing. The character inhabiting this strange tale, both the flesh and blood ones as well as those digitally rendered, are every bit as memorable as their surroundings. Stephanie Leonidas is quite simply a revelation as Helena, giving her a childlike innocence that, together with the emotionally rough seas of a teenager, makes for a very fascinating and real-felt performance. And you wouldn't for a second believe her to be anything but a troubled teen, despite her actual twenty-two years of age. Gina McKee delivers an equally impressive performance as Helena's mother, Joanne, and as the Dark Queen she has such a stunning presence about her that not even the most wicked of witches or evil of step-mothers could overshadow her for even the fraction of a second. Dave McKean's feature film directorial debut is a masterpiece, short and simple, and the feast that he serves up with MirrorMask is one that I most definitely will never tire of...
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If Labyrinth and Alice in Wonderland had a baby....
prnssleiao31 January 2005
MirrorMask is like the crack baby of Labyrinth and Alice in Wonderland--but this baby is more stylized, modern, and incredibly beautiful.

I am a huge fan of both Dave McKean and Neil Gaiman's work. I consider myself lucky, because I was able to meet Neil at the Salt Lake Public Library a couple of years ago, and I was treated to a sneak preview of MirrorMask at the San Diego Comic Convention in 2004. And amazingly enough, I got to see the film at the Sundance Film Festival on January 29th-- and Neil and Dave were there again. So, I've felt attached to this project for a while.

This is a film that children and adults will adore. The humor is great, and the characters are immediately enjoyable and identifiable. Helena, the main character, possesses the kind of wide-eyed wonderment and tenacious attitude that all viewers will find believably endearing. The other characters range from strangely beautiful and frightening, as in the Black Queen, to comical and seemingly ordinary, as in the sardonic juggler, Valentine. The background characters are beautifully rendered and reflect McKean's style perfectly. The costume design is particularly outstanding—details are not overlooked. One could view the film a dozen times and still see new surprises.

Like Labyrinth, the film follows Helena through a journey of self-discovery, where she ultimately begins to understand the importance of her herself and her family—and of the ultimate power of hope. As a child, I was captivated by Labyrinth's Sarah character, and I think younger generations will latch onto Helena just as quickly. Helena is more believable though, than Sarah—and her role is a positive one. She is a strong, intelligent, and inquisitive girl, just on the verge of womanhood.

The entire film floored me—I feel so lucky to have seen it. If any of you have a chance to see it, do so immediately. Hopefully, the film will be released to theaters around the country— this would be an especially wise move, as I'm sure it will become a classic fantasy film for all ages.
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Fun for the family and the art crowd
Aaron Pyle15 October 2005
I have just returned from seeing this wonderful little film. From the summary, it is obvious to most that not only is this, for the most part, a children's film, but it borrows from the classic "girl trapped in another world as a metaphor for growing up". We're even treated to a brief shot of a man juggling glass balls a la David Bowie in "Labirynth". The obvious "Alice in Wonderland-esquire" story makes things a bit predictable since we've seen it several times, but if one were to sit back and enjoy the magic and the characters, then enjoyment is practically guaranteed. It is a very family-friendly movie because of this.

At the same time, the art crowd will instantly recognize the names of Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean. Gaiman is the author of such novels as "American Gods" and "Neverwhere" and also is a comic writer that reached fame with his metaphysical masterpiece series "The Sandman". McKean, likewise, is a famed graphic designer and also worked with Gaiman on "Sandman". They have both collaborated on children's books as well. McKean's brilliant design work and Gaiman's delightful characters are evident throughout. Those seeking more cerebral movies will not be displeased.

The only negatives of this movie is that it slows a bit in some places and the effects are sometimes "too pretty" and might be a distraction. These are only two small drawbacks in what is otherwise a great film. I know I will not be the only one hopeful that this will be the first in many movies that will be involved in the Jim Henson Company's comeback.
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not exactly that original?
Warning: Spoilers
I saw the movie the other day and I have to admit, it was dazzling. To much information for the braincells. Eye-candy. But..?

The performances were as good as needed in a fairytale like this, but...?

I watched the extras, the comicon convention Q&A, in hope that the makers would mention it, but...?

Hasn't anybody noticed that this movie is Stephen King's and Peter Straub's "The Talisman" on LSD? or am I the only one?

The boy with the dying mother, (girl in this case), that has to travel to "The Territories", to find the Talisman (or, mirror-mask), to save his mother's life, and the strange world he is visiting. Meeting strange creatures as the story goes, from talking werewolves to flying men to whatever else.

Come ON, people!! you are using the media in it's finest form. DO SOMETHING ORIGINAL. And if you're adapting a story from the '80s, SAY SO. no one in going to blame you.

But unfortunately you didn't, so this movie no matter how good it is, falls in the "never-admitting-borrowing-from" category, as

reservoir dogs/city on fire. harry potter/Star Wars. Kill Bill/Lady Snowblood.

...and so on, and so forth. pity.
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Incomprehensible. Vaguely sickening.
TensersFloatingDisk22 September 2006
Well, that was sure a waste of Dave McKean's talents, wasn't it? Don't get me wrong: when it comes to graphic design, Dave McKean may be the best in the world right now. The layered, textured look he can accomplish with just a few pencil lines on rough paper make the efforts of people like Peter Greenaway and David Fincher look like what they are: hackwork. McKean has been the godfather of a revolution in the look of comics, film, even magazine ads which borrow the distinctive collage effect he has pioneered.

But this movie? It's junk. Complete junk. The story, from Neil Gaiman, is, unfortunately, exactly what Gaiman has been giving us ever since he ripped off Clive Barker for the first time: a pseudo-mythic, overblown dreamscape, populated by characters which have Titles in All Capital Letters rather than names. Everything is allegory, to the point that it is impossible to get any human drama, emotion, or empathy from anyone involved. People make pithy postulations, speaking in riddles which bring to mind what Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead might have sounded like if Tom Stoppard had suffered a debilitating stroke halfway through its composition. Really, Gaiman, get over yourself. You're not a prophet. You're a poser.

McKean's directing doesn't help - his pacing is poor, taking fully half an hour to actually rev himself up for the main picaresque plot, and then simply providing a disconnected sequence of events, none of them given any weight. The monsters don't menace because they're not foreshadowed, simply thrown at the screen. The plot doesn't engage because we don't really care about the rancid little protagonists. Half the dialogue, muttered into into shirt fronts and ubiquitous masks, is unintelligible.

Some of the visuals are pretty, and I'm sure the fanboys will lick it up. Pity. Think of the amount of really good work McKean could have produced if he hadn't been stuck with this lame project.

Grade: D/D-
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Only go for the visuals
ruth_buchan8 March 2006
I saw "Mirrormask" last night and it was an unsatisfactory experience.

It is a film that is visually rich but with slow direction, poor plot line and 2-dimensional characterisation.

I did, however, know this when I went in. I was willing to trust the two gentleman that I went with (knowledgable comic buffs) that the visuals would be out of the ordinary and so they were. Unfortunately, inexperience of direction meant that scene after scene passed with little in the way of dramatic tension or conflict. Though, this is a comment that could be made of many artists whose work is transferred to screen and who are given charge of direction. The pace of the story is lost as the camera lovingly dwells on the pretty pictures.

I would not have gone at all without that reassurance that the style of the film would be worth seeing. I have tried with Neil Gaiman's work but am always left with the "emperor's new clothes" feeling. I live in hope but last night was no exception.

I do not think I can continue with an analysis of Gaiman's work without losing the will to live. Read the rest of the comments and all his faults are eloquently described. I cannot comprehend, however, how he imagined that he had any understanding of the mind of a fifteen year old girl, Nor that what he had to say added anything to the sum total of human knowledge on growing up and assuming adult responsibility, or the changing relationship that a girl might have with her mother. These are the central themes of the film and they are handled ineptly, stereotypically and with no depth of imagination. All the pretty pictures in the world cannot make up for a piece of work that is flawed at the core.
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"a masterpiece that will stand the test of filmic history"
scottlukaswilliams30 October 2005
I went into this film with high expectations and it didn't disappoint!

Dave McKean is a genius! He has created a film which is an unparalleled amalgam of live action, puppetry, classical and computer generated animation. This is the kind of movie that makes me want to be a filmmaker. McKean is constantly aware of the camera and how best to use it to draw the audience into the world he and Neil Gaiman have created.

The story is a fascinating examination of the self and issues of duality through the lens of the carnivalesque. The film references the mythologies of various cultures to create one of its own. There are some clear links back to Lewis Carroll and Alice's Adventures In Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass and it shares the dark, twisted sense of humour seen in earlier Henson Company films like Labyrinth and Dark Crystal.

The whole film is captivating and visually gorgeous. Within each frame there is so much to see, that, I would guess, even upon dozens of viewings, you'd be seeing new things. The visuals alone would have been enough to make this film nearly perfect but coupled with the frenetic and wacky music it's made even more amazing.

Kudos to McKean and Gaiman for creating a masterpiece that will stand the test of filmic history.
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An abysmal, derivative mess.
jediurru4 February 2007
Neil Gaiman apparently thinks that there's no one left alive who saw Labyrinth, Legend, or The Neverending Story. This dribble boldly "borrows" from all three of them without bringing an original idea to the table. Heaped on top of this study in intellectual theft is a pretentious and tiresome script which soullessly babbles through hollow dialog in an attempt to garner legitimacy. Bizarrely, the writer expected us to have feelings and reactions to characters he no more than thinly developed, such that in climatic moments I felt as if the characters were relating back to points in their relationship never actually shown on the screen.

I sat through this movie solely on the fact that I wanted to have an informed opinion on it. Mirrormask is an insult to the proud tradition of fantasy films it mugs for content.
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One word: Meh.
moneenerd17 February 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I was at blockbuster Video for no longer than 5 minutes when i came across the beautiful cover art for MIRRORMASK on the New Releases shelf. At closer inspection, I read 2 important names: Neil Gaiman (of "Sandman" comics fame) and the late Jim Henson. So, needless to say, I quickly grabbed it and checked out as fast as I came in. With these 2 big names displayed on MIRRORMASKs casing, I was sure to be blessed with a magical story, full of bizarre concepts, dark yet beautiful imagery, and some very interesting characters and possibly even some of that puppetry that Hensons company is so well known for.

Instead I was subjected to a meaningless mess of poor CGI, boring lead characters, and a plot and storyline weve all seen before. Come to find out, its just another fairytale about a spoiled brat, 15 year old girl who gets lost in this world that is basically made up of her own wild imagination (much like Hensons LABYRYNTH, but instead of her head being in the books, our character is lost in a world inhabited by her drawings).

This movie brings nothing new to the genre, and seems just like one big stew of every Henson flick ever made, minus the mesmerizing puppetry, and then ontop of it, looks like a big gross load of Neil Gaimans pretentious-gothy-art spunk splattered all over it, so much so, that the focus on the story 9which is not that interesting anyway) is lost in the overwhelming mind f*ck that are the special effects.

I was really psyched to watch this film, and maybe I just talked it up in my head so much that I disappointed myself. But no matter what the case, this award-winning fairy tale is, again, nothing new. It tries so hard to stimulate the eye that it comes off most pretentious. There are some parts here and there that do work, but they are too far and few between, and are almost stolen right out of the other great fantasy films (look for the scene where our lead character Helena is brainwashed, dressed and made up in black by the dark queens minions, almost exactly like the scene in LEGEND).

Snore factor is way too high on this film. Sure its probably a kids flick, but so was LABYRYNTH and DARK CRYSTAL, and MIRRORMASK will never compare to those timeless and ageless classics.

5 out of 10.
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A wild dream that's easily forgotten
Sam wilson8 December 2005
Wow, what exciting visual effects. I also loved the costumes and artwork, the circus and ethereal feel to the film was sublime. It just required the need for the viewer to worry about the fate of our protagonist. As she is trapped in her imagination, there is never a sense of peril unlike, say, David Lynch's films which haunt every time. This also draws attention to which age group this film is aimed at. Who would this engage?

Mirrormask is obviously going to draw comparisons with Labyrinth with the teen- angst/ fantasy theme, but unfortunately it doesn't really come close to delivering the same Henson essence. The ill mother theme is never fully explained and certainly not something that you care about while lapping up the eye candy.

Not agonisingly awful a la The Cell, nor as engagingly dreamlike as Labyrinth - a forgettable but good-looking fantasy.
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major disappointment!
jazzamind18 September 2006
Soon as I had heard about this movie being made, I put it on the top of my wish-list...Was looking forward to its release BIGTIME! So there it was,finally.Rented it, went home, all happy,ready to enjoy what was about to come.

The first thing in the movie that totally irritated me was the music: Sounded like Kenny G(you remember"songbird" argh),and in my opinion, seemed totally misplaced. Still, I would give the rest a chance...

Atmospherically seemed very gloomy to me,the whole thing, lighting and sets and the rest, which could have been good, if the Kenny-g on acid would not have been constantly nagging through the whole thing...

The story was way way too thin to carry the interest throughout, and not only was it thin,it was very very predictably unoriginal also...

I am sure people are gonna hate me for this, but I wasn't that impressed by the graphics either: very cold and dark feel they gave me...

I kinda fell into the trap of it being a Henson-production, but the coldness of the graphics makes me think back of the time when actual puppetry with actual puppets made brilliant movies, like all the muppet-movies, and of course the masterpiece The Dark Crystal...

So veryvery disappointed here...
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Who is this film for?
Pwyrdan23 July 2007
In general, I agree with all of the reviews - both the good and the bad. It's an amazing film, but definitely not for everyone. In fact, who is it for? I grew up on movies like The Dark Crystal, Labyrinth, Legend and The Neverending Story, but I didn't enjoy MirrorMask, for two reasons.

It seemed that the writers decided to rewrite well-traveled children's film territory while just adding some new ideas. Since it was meant to be a children's movie, some viewers will forgive the familiar scenes, but it is a strike against it for all of us who were jarred out of our suspension of disbelief by what seemed more like borrowed ideas than an homage. I just couldn't get into it. The Neverending Story, Labyrinth and Legend in particular seemed almost to be sources for the story. I was disappointed, because I am a big Gaiman fan - except for Coraline, which also creeped me out. He is usually a very original writer.

But I would still have enjoyed the film if it weren't for the aesthetics. Artistically and creatively, it's impressive, and I can understand why it has the beginnings of a cult following: Mirror Mask is better than Labyrinth (a similar Jim Henson Company movie) in a lot of ways. It's more mature, with a better heroine, a decent plot and thoughtful underlying themes. But to me, DM's art seemed bizarre and disturbing - not for children. This is not a light-hearted, pretty movie. I doubt it would appeal to most fans of the familiar fantasy genre. The script was thoughtful and sometimes fun, but the visuals were insane and scary. I'm surprised I didn't have nightmares after watching it.

So it's not mature enough for most adults, but too old for most kids. Who is going to love this movie? Probably mostly artists and film students. Just my opinion.
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More of visual creativity than story...
Enchorde5 February 2007
Warning: Spoilers
Recap: Helena, a girl in her teens, live an rather unusual life with her parents which are running a circus. They want Helen to be part of their act, which Helena is not that keen on. To escape her life she draws, mostly with charcoal (?). Anyway, all her paintings are in black and white, with very deep contrasts. After a fight with her mother, her mother falls suddenly ill and is rushed to the hospital. It is not known whether she will live or die. Suddenly Helena finds her self in a very bizarre spot. A dreamlike land with a white city and a black countryside. But the balance is broken, the white Queen has fallen in coma and the shadows from the dark side are invading the city and threatens to destroy the entire land. Helena must find the charm that can restore the balance and take her back to her own world.

Comments: Not a movie with a great intriguing story. In fact, the story is rather weak, but that may be because I'm not really among the intended viewers. This is listed as a Family-movie and the story is very fitting one, even though it could have been better.

The great effort has been put into the visual end of the movie. The new world is totally bizarre compared to our world, but entirely logical when viewed separately. People are wearing masks, mythological and fantastic creatures walk among the streets. Computer graphics has been used to no end. It gives a plastic feeling but is required to bring forth the creativity and vision the director and writers must have had for this new world. In fact it is very hard to describe in details, it must be seen.

And that's the reason, even if you feel you're not in among the target group, to watch this movie. The story will probably bore you a little, it did me, and it is the main reason I can't give the move a higher vote. But visually, this is almost a must see. Very good.
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A film designed for parents who try to make their children eat fruit for breakfast when they really want co-co pops.
nathanz921 August 2006

It isn't colourful. Most of it is black and white with a tasteful single accent colour in each scene. Its an adult's idea of colourful.

The constant jazz is really annoying and totally inappropriate in a children's film - which I don't believe this is.

The effects are rubbish and very obviously computer generated. If you haven't a sufficient budget to make it look believable don't bother. Blue lines round things in 2005 - honestly.

The acting and dialogue is awful. Absolutely chronic. The plot is pointless and boring.

Also how does this priggish public school educated child (judging by her voice) live on a council estate and work in a circus. Furthermore where is this well attended circus where multi-racial 'representative of the community' kids of 13 -16 laugh uproariously at the clowns.

Its all very British, very art school, very footlights, very 'auntie beeb' but above all very, very boring.

I think it would be very difficult to follow for small children as it just wouldn't hold their interest. Its virtually plot less.

The worst thing about it is the guy that plays Valentine - I hope he never works again.
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Boring, Slow to start, little storyline
wishesnz8 July 2006
The movie rambles on in a dull black and white style filming for about 30 minutes trying to set up some background scenes. Its very dreary and uninteresting, half it doesn't make much sense.

Then it suddenly switches into more colour where it gets a little better. Here the storyline gets a little more interesting though I did notice almost word for word in some places lines from other movies such as 'Never Ending Story' and similar. It resembles The Labyrinth a lot, only a poorer copy. Most of the monsters appear to have the same 'Darth Vader' style voice.

Overall I would never hire it again. The beginning was dreadful and the only reason it got a 2 was because of the rest 'running around trying to get the mask'. The storyline was blatantly ripped from various other movies (if at all you could call it a storyline). And the most of the scenes were either ripped from other movies or to artsy to be actually interesting.
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Poor quality and totally unbelievable
theart-115 June 2006
This film is really really bad, it is not very well done and is a lack lustre attempt at something but I am not sure what. I watched it and was very disappointed. It promised a lot, but delivered nothing at all. The characters are shallow and wooden, and the music, if you can call it that, is dreadful. There are of course all the creatures and animated beings, but they are so poorly done that it does not come across as anything other than a third rate movie. It is a real shame that more attention could not have been spent to the special effects, not the be all and end all of a movie I agree, but in a movie that is based around them, it's a very important factor. For me, a very sad attempt, and should be avoided.
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